Lotto Soudal team manager Marc Sergeant has revealed the seven-rider team for next month's Australian WorldTour races with Rafa Valls to aim for another top-ten result at the Tour Down Under and strong showing at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Australian Adam Hansen has also been selected for both races while Briton James Shaw will make his professional debut with the team.
For the third year in a row, German national champion and leading all-time stage winner at the Tour Down Under, Andre Greipel, won't be making the trip to Australia.
"The seven riders who go to Australia are: Sander Armée, Lars Bak, Sean De Bie, Thomas De Gendt, Adam Hansen, James Callum Shaw and Rafael Valls," Sergeant said of the team for the January 17-22 event and January 15 People's Choice Classic pre-race criterium. "Last year, Rafael Valls finished eighth overall at the Tour Down Under. Later down the season, Rafa had a lot of bad luck. This edition, he's aiming for a top ten place again."
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Hansen, the 2014 king of the mountains victor at the Tour Down Under, will be given the opportunity to pursue personal objectives, as will De Gendt after his stints in the 2016 Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana's KOM jerseys. De Bie will also have opportunities although his early-season aims are for a good showing in the Ardennes.
"Sean De Bie, Thomas De Gendt and Adam Hansen will pick their stages," added Sergeant. "For James Shaw, Australia will be his début as a pro rider. Just like neo-pros Rémy Mertz and Enzo Wouters he gets the chance to grow without any pressure."
The seven-man team remains the same for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on January 29 in Geelong and the new Australia Day criterium on January 26.
Sergeant also announced that the rider from the Australian races will also be in consideration for the February races, Ruta del Sol and Volta ao Algarve (February 15-19), Vuelta a la Región de Murcia (February 11) and Clásica de Almería (February 12), and the Abu Dhabi Tour (February 23-26).
Lotto-Soudal for the 2017 Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race: Sander Armée, Lars Bak, Sean De Bie, Thomas De Gendt, Adam Hansen, James Callum Shaw and Rafael Valls.